It isn’t every day that one goes to Silverstone for a British Grand Prix, and practice is often as interesting as the race, so let us tell those not fortunate enough to be present what happened, in some detail. Off at 7.30 a.m., we found that practice was delayed until after 11 a.m., when the 500-c.c. cars went on for one hour. But examination of the cars and course passed the time. Definitely the course, 3f miles to the lap, is good. Privileged persons with passes can get easily along a delightful field path from Luffield Abbey Farm to Segrave Straight and from Segrave Corner see, also, the cars taking Seaman Corner, and look at the fine vista of the coarse where it falls from Beckett’s Corner, through the lefthand Chapel Curve along Hangar Straight to Stowe Corner, this and the subsequent climb up to Seaman Corner reminiscent of Donington’s Melbourne Corner. Incidentally, Fred Craner was a pit-area marshal, while Earl Howe and Col. Barnes motored round the circuit, in a Type 57 Bugatti coupe and Healey roadster, respectively, the latter bearing a B.R.D.C. badge on its doors.
A feature of most of the 500-c.c. cars was the extra tankage. Strang was apparen t ly using two pints a minute at 6,000 r.p.m., and had large cylindrical tanks, one each side of the car. Elastic cord held down engine cover and bonnet and the mirrors w…re mounted on the front shock-absorbers. The beautifully turned out Grose also had. its mirrors on the shock-absorber mountings. This car was entered by Grose of Northampton and hal a rear-placed Norton engine with hairpin valve springs, a bag nose cowl, independent springing all round based on Standard Eight layout, with the transverse spring below the wishbones in front, above them at the back, hydraulic brakes, bolt-on wheels with 4.75 by 16 rear tyres, and a special framework for push starting—model fashion—to save the immaculate bodywork. The wrong fuel melted the plug at first and Grose came quickly to his pit, receiving a ticking-off, in the friendliest possible manner, at the hands of Sammy Davis for cutting across the course. The Russell had independent suspension all round, by tran verse single-leaf springs at the rear, Morgan at the front. The M.A.C. had a big square fuel tank on a platform over the engine and held by two straps, the Cowlan sported a megaphone exhaust, plenty of air scoops and 1-elliptic rear-suspension, while Aitkens had a spring-loaded jockey sprocket for tensioning the final-drive chain, and an extra tank under his seat. Flather had a forward-inclined, rear-mounted Scott engine, with Lucas magneto, in his bulbous Marott, the frame heavily X-braced, the radiator at the front, a mysterious big-bore rubber tube apparently feeding oil to the gearbox main bearing, while front suspension was by transverse spring and wishbones, with transverse Hartfords, and the tyres 4.00 by 19. Alas, the Marwyn • king-pin bushes displayed too much play to please the scrutineers and had to be changed. The Underwood has a rear-placed Scott engine, transverse spring and wishbone i.f.s., and 4.00 by 18 tyres. Philip’s Fairley was an Austin Seven chassis with front-mounted Norton single-cylinder engine, a guard protecting its protruding carburetter on the off side. while Francis Beart was looking after the special Norton engin( in Dryden’s Cooper. All the Coopers used extra air-scoops. Brandon’s at chassis level, and front tanks to supplement the over-engine tanks. Wharton had a B.S.A. ” twin ‘ engine neatly concealed beneath the bonnet of his former Wharton Special. Soon the course was full of hurrying Class I racers and the air filled with the scent of hot engines and clutch plates. The M.A.C. bounced badly, the Fairley tended to snake, but Moss drove his Cooper impeccably as usual, assisting his father and the mechanics to alter the engine sprocket after a few laps. As usual, the car had arrived in a horse-box trailer behind a Twenty Rolls utility. Brandon had to resecure a mirror, Samuelson’s engine ran-on after the ignition was cut and later Earl Howe brought him a part of a broken spring-leaf ! The Fry 500 had a tubular chassis, Morgan-type front end, the same rubber rear independent suspension as the bigger Freikaiserwagen, utilising cables and pulleys, and a rear-placed Cross rotary-valve Rudge engine. The rear tyres were 5.00 by 15. Buzzie II was similar, but with twin coil springs for each rear wheel, working in vertical slides, and a huge headrest-cum-tank. Clark’s A.S.A. used transverse spring and wishbone i.f.s., an oil-cooler on the SilverstoneThursday side and strut-type front shock absorbers. The six fastest
500s were :— min. sec. min. see. Moss (Cooper) 3 17.4 Cooper (Cooper) 3 38.0 Coward (Cowlan) 3 28.0 Coldham (Cooper) 3 40.0 Bacon (F.H.B.) 28.4 Strang (Strang) 3 42.0
After a lunch break the big cars came out. Rosier’s Talbot was towed by a left-drive Chrysler roadster, Hamilton’s Maserati carried a B.R.D.C. badge on the bonnet, Walker drove the 2-stage E-type E.R.A. up to his pit and a Riley” Gamecock” towed Parnell’s 2-stage ” Goodwood ” Maserati. Walker was a bit puzzled by the E-type’s cockpit fuel-tap positions. The Comotti, Rosier and Etancelin Talbots soon arrived–all three were identical, with coolers protruding from the scuttles, the offset seats and 5.25 by 18 front, 7.00 by 18 rear Englebert tyres.
A surprise was occasioned by ” Bira’s ” Maserati, ;which turned out to be another of the latest 4 CTL/48 cars, like Parnell’s. It was Italian red, but ” Bira ” had put on his yellow wheels, with 6.50 by 18 rear Dunlops, and a blue blanking strip in the radiator grille. The whole car was magnificently turned out, starting handle clamped on the left of the driving seat, fuel tap prominent on the right of the cockpit, and an oil cooler at the front of the engine. ” Bira ” had only seen this new Maserati for the first time that morning and he joined Stanley Holgate and the other mechanics in doing much work on it himself as the practice period wore on. Like all ” works ” Maseratis, no bonnet straps are used. The long gear-lever is cranked over to the left. The car was towed behind a Hudson utility and warmed up, seeming to ” hunt ” somewhat at 1,0002,090 r.p.m. Bob Gerard had both his green car and the white 1i-litre E.R.A. that Mrs. Gerard drove at Shelsley, taking the latter out first. Mays’ and Bolster’s E.R.A.s were having a transmission warming session on their jacks. Naturally, the blue Type 26C Talbot Lago Records were a centre of attraction, especially as Chiron had the latest “two-cam ” job. Engines were started by plugging in at the tail a lead from a Robert Brunet battery trolley, transmissions were warmed on the jack in each case, and the tappets adjusted. A spare fan belt was tied beside the
one in use, ready for emergency. Comotti wore white racing trousers, Rosier blue overalls and helmet and Etancelin blue overall trousers and back-to-front cap. With thern.came their patron, Paul Vallet, in a wondrous waistcoat and broad-brimmed hat. The cars came from Seine, one on a two-wheel trailer behind a ” 202 ” Peugeot, the others in a magnificent white ” Equire France” Delahaye van, with many spot lamps and the racing successes in silver on the doors, in a huge open Mercedes diesel lorry and a modern Chevrolet lorry. Etancelin used a 760-c.c. Renault saloon.
Amongst the many celebrities present was Alfred Neubauer, the ex-Mercedes racing manager, over here to organise the future B.R.M. team.
As the cars became warm and began to open up, a fair amount of dust rose from the course. The front wheels of Salvadori’s 4-cylinder Maserati and of Watson’s Alta flapped, Leslie Johnson held a slide in the E-type E.R.A. at Copse Corner, where Hampshire’s E.R.A. passed Baring’s Maserati out of Woodcote Corner. Comotti overtook “Bira,” the bottom of the tail of Brooke’s aged E.R.A. fell off—there was no sign of his Maserati. The taped-on number vanished from the body of Baring’s Maserati. The Em.eryson was smoking, and Bob Anseil was motoring steadily in the blue ex-Sommer 4CL Maserati, which had a small cylindrical auxiliary fuel tank on the off side. Watching from Seaman Corner we saw Harrison’s E.R.A. spin round, Bolster shoot through the white tins which marked the course, Rosier rock his wheel as he cornered and Etancelin make his rear tyres smoke under acceleration. At Segrave Corner Bolster worked hard ; the E.R.A.-Riley slid appreciably, as did Walker’s E-type E.R.A. Watson spun round in front of Rosier, Baird later doing the same thing in front of Johnson at Seaman Corner. Mays had suffered piston ring trouble after a few laps and rushed his E.R.A. away in its van, the Emeryson caught fire, necessitating all-night work, and Peter Walker rode in on the tail of Ansell’s Maserati, leaving the ex-Parnell E-type E.R.A. beside Seaman Straight ! Cornotti cornered beautifully. A thrill occurred when the rear end of the. propeller-shaft of Etancelin’s Talbot came adrift as he accelerated from Copse Corner. It chewed up the floor and bits of fluff from the seat adhered to the universal joint, so the
driver had a wonderful escape. A nonchalant French mechanic came out to the car and Etancelin walked off through the stubble fields as a group of farm labourers and onlookers gathered round the stricken Talbot. Louis Chiron came late and took his Talbot Lago Record, the latest type, round sans numbers—he was number 1 in the race. He seemed troubled by the steering. The result of this practice session was :
Up again on Friday, this time in a Bugatti. The big cars practised in the morning. Surprise was ” Bira’s ” blue 2-stage Maserati—he had actually had the car re-sprayed overnight, the job so well done that only the closest examination revealed traces of the former red ! Silver wheels were fitted later, but were finally replaced by the yellow. Alas, much trouble was experienced, with brakes and steering, ” Bira ” working with his mechanics, while Holgate had changed many pipes and replaced the Italian water hoses with something more durable ! Nevertheless, a lap was put in at 2 min. 58.8 sec. =73.92 m.p.h.
De Graffenried’s red Maserati had arrived behind a Lancia ” Aprilia,” a rather rough 4CL car, with 6.00 by 16 Pirelli rear tyres. A girl was neatly painting on the racing numbers and the driver, tall, smart and smiling, wore blue overalls. Hamilton spun round at Seaman Corner, Etancelin was out again, his Talbot repaired, so was Mays, but Walker had abandoned the E-type E.R.A. for Whitehead’s B-type and Johnson was attending to business in the City Murray charged the straw-bales at Copse in the ex-Parnell Maserati, went on, but found the steering damaged. Gilbey’s 6C Maserati broke a piston, the engine being promptly dismantled at the pits. The Emeryson again caught fire, but this time all was well, but Geoffrey Ansell, after earlier bothers, had gearbox trouble, necessitating a visit post-haste to Coventry for spares. Brooke slid well and truly off the course coming out of Seaman Corner, de Graffenried’s engine was tested on the handle, each cylinder in turn, for compression or the lack of it, and a leak discovered at the base of the tank. Parnell’s Maserati tank was removed in entirety before the car was sheeted up for the night in a barn. Salvadori’s Maserati was having its brakes relined. The best times were :— SilverstoneFriday
The 500s next had their session, in the afternoon this time, Cooper and Rhiando, incidentally, using their V-twin cars with one-cylinder engines installed. Much excitement—after a hectic three days and nights journey the two 4CTL/48 Maseratis waive from • Italy in two tiers on a Dodge lorry, a Lancia ” Aprilia ” in attendance, and are offered a special practice session after the 500s. They are the very latest cars, with improved brakes. The lorry drives off round the course and in some mysterious manner the upper Maserati is lowered from its high perch and towed behind the lorry to the refuelling bay as the 500s are actually practising. Godfrey checks the equipment, Ascari and the smiling Villoresi arrive and put on their kit, the latter intrigued by a passing Meteor jet fighter, Ramponi gives advice, Mrs. Petre promises Villoresi a cherry-brandy that evening to compensate for a fearful journey, and everywhere is excitement and suspense. The 500s finish, with best times as under :—
” Bira ” and his crew still labour on his Maserati, Holgate telling Villoresi, amid much mirth, that bits of the steering are